Once the game was started, she forgot about the pieces, other than the position they played in the game. Then, when she won, she wanted to act like Jinx, but seeing Hades’ inscrutable expression, her enjoyment vanished.
“You let me win.”
“Of course. You didn’t really believe you could beat me, did you?”
Her lips tightened as she put the pieces back on the board. “It’s your turn to go first.”
He regarded her speculatively while Zerina moved her chair closer to his desk, unaware that Hades watched her closely as she planned her first move.
After he made his move, she strategized hers, leaning forward, the front of her dipped gown exposing the creamy curves of her breasts.
She sat back after moving a piece, waiting for him to move his. Scooting onto the edge of her seat, she took her time to think out her next move, not looking up at him so she wouldn’t be distracted. When he moved again, Zerina carefully made her next move.
The game didn’t last as long as the first. She had been strategizing so hard she had missed that she had already lost the game. When she did realize it, she looked up to stare at him balefully. “I much prefer you pretending to lose.”
“I’ll think about it the next time we play.” The corner of his lips lifted in a smile.
Zerina placed the pieces back on the board. “Thank you for the game.”
She rose. “Good evening, Hades.”
At his nod, she walked toward the door, not acknowledging Tartarus when he opened it before she could, knowing Hades had silently told him to. She made sure Hades’ servant didn’t see her expression of relief, releasing it when she was out of sight.
Zerina nearly blew her calm demeanor by picking up her gown and fleeing to her room. Not sure that Hades would be watching her, she kept a steady pace until she was finally able to close herself in her room.
Jinx was sitting cross-legged on the bed, waiting for her.
“How’d it go?”
Zerina went to her dressing table to take out the pearl comb, brushing her long hair. “It went fine. We played chess.”
Jinx fell back on the bed. “We’re never getting out of here.”
Zerina went to the bed to look down at her. “What did you expect me to do?”
“How about sit and talk to him, ask to go for a walk, get him to show you his favorite book—anything other than play a game of chess. You suck at chess.”
She picked up one of her pillows and threw it at her. “Those suggestions would have been helpful before I told you I was going to his office.”
Jinx stared at her with pity, putting the pillow behind her head. “You’re going to need my help.”
“How can you help me? You don’t have any more experience with men than I do.”
“That’s not because of lack of opportunity, but because of lack of quality. I could have any old god or immortal if I were interested.”
“Then why don’t you try with Hades?”
“If I were a couple of inches taller and had just a smidgen bigger boobs, I would. I could get him to do anything I want like that!” Jinx snapped her fingers.
Zerina stared at her doubtfully. Her mother and Destiny had always joked about how reclusive Jinx was toward males. She had assumed it was because she didn’t want them to control her power. Could it have been more than that?
Sitting down on the bed, she said, “Tell me what to do.” She knew when she had been beat.
Zerina climbed one of the ladders in the library, hoping that Jinx was right and that she wouldn’t be hurt by what she was about to do.
Could she be hurt in Hades? She was about to find out.
Reaching the top of the ladder, she reached for a book just of reach. Sliding her feet sideways, stretching, she tried to reach for it again. Her fingers were precariously close to the book, trying to grab it. Going to her toes, she then felt herself toppling over.
Giving a high scream, she closed her eyes, waiting to find herself splattered on the black marble.
Her eyes sprang open when she felt hard arms catch her and lower her to the ground.
Pressing her breasts against his chest, she lowered her hands from his broad shoulders. “Thank you.”
“Next time, call Grimm. He can get the book you want.” With a wave of his hand, the book she had been reaching for floated off the shelf.
“I will. I’m sorry I disturbed you.”
Hades nodded, about to wave his hand to disappear.
He arched a brow in her direction.
She clutched the book to her chest nervously. “Have you read all these books?”
“I was wondering if you could help me. My mother read me a story when I was little … I would like to read it again, but I can’t remember the title.”
“You don’t remember the book?”
“No, just bits and pieces of the story. It’s not like I can ask her, unless you’re willing to summon her.”
“Tell me what you remember. I’ll know.”
She happily took a seat on the couch. When Hades remained where he was, she patted the cushion next to her. When he sat down, she tried to remember the details of the story.
“A woman was bathing when an eagle took one of her shoes.”
Hades waved his hand and a book from a shelf on the upper floor floated down into her waiting hands.
“That was quick.”
“The woman was a courtesan. It was risqué at the time.”
Zerina felt the blush rising underneath her skin.
Changing the subject, she asked what books he liked to read.
“Do you really want to know? Somehow, I don’t believe that my reading habits interest you.”
Zerina was failing miserably at trying to forge a friendship between them. Her anger at the way she had been brought here and Hades’ arrogant attitude had placed a barrier between them that she didn’t know how to breach.
When she remained silent in thought, Hade
s started to rise.
Trying to be fake wasn’t working for her; Hades was too old and wise to fall for that ploy. Only one thing would work. The only way a friendship was going to develop between them was if she made the first step.
“Hades, I’m sorry about my behavior when I arrived. I didn’t show you the respect you deserved, and I’m sorry. I’m also sorry that I struck you.” Her flush deepened. “And that I went into the tunnel you warned against. I regret my actions. I’d like us to be friends until you and Mother think it’s safe for me to leave. Can we start over?” She put her hand out toward him.
Hades stared at her hand, not taking it. “Why the change?”
Zerina didn’t lower her hand. “Jinx is the only one I have to talk to, and much as I love her, she can be a little …”
“Pain in the ass?”
Zerina laughed. “Exactly.”
Hades laughed with her, taking her hand. “We can try, Zerina.” His eyes met hers in warning. “Anyone who has tried to turn my friendship against me has found my anger wasn’t worth the cost.”
She released his hand. His touch had her wanting to move closer to him. The primitive urges that had her belly twisting in knots were more than she could bear.
“The only thing I want to achieve from your friendship is how to beat Jinx at chess and billiards. She can be obnoxious when she wins.”
Hades waved his hand and the chessboard appeared. “Who’s going to make the first move?”
Zerina laughed as she spun around in Hades’ entryway, looking for a place to hide. She smothered her laughter with her hand before picking up her gown and running up the steps, seeing wraiths skitter and fly away as she ran toward the hallway toward her room. Knowing she could be found in her room, she then turned and started to run to the room across from hers, to find herself crashing into Hades.
She hit him on his shoulder. “You cheated!”
“You cheated first. You were supposed to hide somewhere on the first floor,” he mocked.
“You always find me there.”
“You have a real problem about losing, you know that?”